The highs and lows of an NQT's year

How has the year been so far?
I’ve only completed a term and a half but I’ve been completely blown away by how much enjoyment I’ve got from the job: how great it feels to finally settle down somewhere and be part of a school community. It’s so lovely to have my own classes and I’m even lucky enough to have my own classroom.

Which subject do you teach and do you still feel passionate about it?
I teach maths across the years from Year 7 to Sixth Form. I am completely in love with maths, and even more so because I came to it quite late. I empathise with the students who find it cold or confusing, as I really didn’t ‘get it’ until A-Level or even undergraduate level. The basic arithmetic skills are just a platform for creativity, but until you’ve mastered those it can be a lonely struggle and there is little joy in it. But once you realise that maths is truly a tool for discovery and innovation, it is fascinating beyond belief. I hope a little of that comes across in the classroom, even if the students think I’m completely crazy!

How are things going with your mentor?
Great! Lucky for me I’ve got a great support network in the school which includes my head of department and loads of other teachers. I’ve been delighted at the way in which they’ve left me to experiment (and it’s often been really quite experimental!) but offered support at the right times. I’m very lucky in that respect.

How do you feel about being observed and assessed?
You get so used to it during the PGCE that I found it very odd, at first, having a class all by myself with no-one to share a private wink or smile. On a serious note, I am my own worst critic and learning to take criticism objectively has been something I have worked very hard at this year. It’s very tempting to ignore all the great comments and focus on the challenges, but it’s important to stop and see how far you’ve come sometimes.

What are the difficulties of being an NQT? How do you overcome them?
I’ve had to restrain myself from saying ‘yes’ to every opportunity. I work in a very innovative school where new projects and ideas are welcomed. This means as an NQT, I can lead and manage much more than I would have imagined. It’s so refreshing to see a place where newcomers are valued as much as experienced teachers, but I know that sometimes my enthusiasm gets the better of me and I need to try and focus my efforts on being a solid practitioner before anything else.

What have been the highs of your year?
Helping to organise a Year 10 Maths Day has been a real highlight for me, as I was able to come up with some collaborative ideas, which involved working with others. It was hugely rewarding to see the ideas take off through our hard team work. Another big highlight for me was a gig with the staff band, which provided me with moments of relief at times when I took myself too seriously.

What have been the lows?
I lost my temper at a pupil for point-blank rudeness; had a short strop with my head of department for pointing out that I had said something inaccurate to a parent (and then realized she was right); and had the occasional tired grumble over coffee, particularly on parent’s evenings…but that really is all

What do you see yourself doing over the next few years?
Ideally, I would like to become an AST in maths and eventually a headteacher, after I’ve completed my Masters degree (currently in progress) and a PHD. I also want to make sure I focus on my family first, as I’ve got a supportive husband and young daughter at home. It’s going to be a difficult balancing act trying to make sure I’m professionally fulfilled as I find that my career is extremely important to me. But it definitely won’t be at the expense of my family.


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